Camping Backpack – Why Have Hiker Numbers Doubled In Seattle?

Camping backpack hikers are found in every state. The question is, why has the number of hikers increased seven times faster than the population in Seattle, Washington?  What is the draw and what does Seattle have that other states don’t?  Apparently there is more than one simple explanation.

Living in a tech world is proving to young adults that the outdoors is the hip place to be and hiking is a great get-away.  The “call of the mountains” has become increasingly stronger. Kids in the 6-12 age range that once loved playing outside are young adults now. They remember how awesome it was to be a part of Nature.  Finding peace and being off the grid for awhile is now more popular. Being away from city crowds and enjoying friends in a group for a social hike is very trendy these days.

There’s been a significant shift in the age demographics of hikers in the U.S.  In 2008, adults age 35-49 were the ones that did the most hiking. By 2018, interest in hiking doubled among people 18-34 years old, surging from a participation rate of 15 percent in 2008 to 30 percent last year. The average American hiker is now age 38 making millennial and early Gen Xers those most likely to hike. However, hikers come in many ages from 16-70.

More than 940,000 adults who live in the Seattle area say they’ve been hiking in the past 12 months. That's double the number from 2008, according to a Nielsen survey.  Currently, hiking is having its moment.  Annual Discover Pass Sales (the ticket to Washington Outdoors) have increased 55% in 5 years   The study concluded that in 2008, less than a quarter of local adults said they hiked. Last year, it was 41 percent. There has also been a surge of visitors to the Washington Trails Association (WTA) website. An increase has also been noted in the number of hikers leaving trip reports, which is like a Yelp review for hiking areas.

A 90 minute hike in the Seattle WA area is the most popular hike for that locale. Hikers seem to enjoy day hikes in the 3 to 6 mile range. There are many places  off the I-90 corridor in communities like  Darrington, Winthrop, and Trout Lake to go backpack hiking. Gateway areas are where hikers stop before they start their next adventure, realizing an economic influx as hiking activities increase.

Millenial age residents are young newcomers that are settling in the Seattle area and its suburbs. Well over half of those residents say they have hiked within the last twelve months. That would explain the rise in hikers to this area for sure. Some challenges could present when you consider overcrowded trails and trail degradation as a result of increased activity.

Do you hike for the peace and zen of the sport?  Are you turned off to crowds and potentially noisy hikers? Beginners will soon learn the rules of being a responsible hiker, just like experienced hikers have.  Consider that the positives may outweigh the negatives. More hikers are an indication that in addition to “saving the planet, people taking up hiking will appreciate nature and will end up having a better respect for it.

Camping backpack hikers often find difficulty in finding adequate parking at the trailhead. King County Metro provides seasonal transportation on weekends and designated holidays to some of this region’s most popular hiking trails. Service has expanded twice since 2017 when it began as a single route. 

Hikers love the ease and accessibility to the mountains. The routes will carry you to your desired trail in less than an hour at a very minimal price. Have you gotten all excited about hiking a trail and can’t find a parking spot at the trail head? Hiking in this area won’t mean frustration over no parking available. This is the perfect answer to having to park a long way from the trailhead due to lack of parking space.

One camping backpack trek choice is the popular 2.8-mile Loop Trail which takes you through a dense forest and meadows. Hikers enjoy it so much because they can put down their hiking pack, have a picnic and observe beautiful coastal views.  A bluff overlooking Puget Sound offers a great view of the downtown skyline. The trails are wide so you can walk comfortably. They are not too steep and have plenty of signage to direct you around the loop. You’ll like this hike because it is family friendly.

One camping backpack trek choice is the popular 2.8-mile Loop Trail which takes you through a dense forest and meadows. Hikers enjoy it so much because they can put down their hiking pack, have a picnic and observe beautiful coastal views.  A bluff overlooking Puget Sound offers a great view of the downtown skyline. The trails are wide so you can walk comfortably. They are not too steep and have plenty of signage to direct you around the loop. You’ll like this hike because it is family friendly.

Cherry Creek Falls is a King County gem. Originally an old logging forest the first part of the 20th century, this trail is outside of Duvall WA.  You can cool off while hiking at the 25-foot waterfall because it pours straight down into a scenic natural pool. The trails are fairly-smooth and the hills are gentle. Cherry Creek flows well year round, but by Autumn, the left side of the falls may dry out. Directions from the Washington hiking guide, "Hiking With My Brother," will get you to the falls and back because signage there is minimal. You can figure on 2.5 miles of hiking from the trailhead.

 Mount Si is arguably the most popular Seattle-area hike. It's the rocky peak looming to your left as you drive Interstate 90 past North Bend. The trail has well-constructed switchbacks.  Not excessively steep, descent is doable even when trail running. It’s not super rocky until you reach the top, so that’s a relief.  There is a definite slope that you must be prepared for. Inexperienced hikers should use trekking poles and condition your legs and body beforehand. Make sure you do leg stretches before and after your climb, even if you have previous hill-climbing experience so you don't have leg cramps.

Don’t let the popularity fool you; this can be a hard hike. It gains 3,150 in just four steep, switch-backing miles, but the views make it worthwhile. On a clear day, Mount Rainier can be seen to the south surrounded by dozens of other Cascade peaks. Figure on approximately a five hour round trip hike.

Camping backpack trekkers have several hikes in the area that don’t require navigating a sloped mountain. The Middle Fork Snoqualmie trail winds its way along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. It features a beautiful forest with a back drop of jagged mountain peaks. The trail frequently is right along the river.  Sounds of rushing water can be heard everywhere, which is a pleasant accompaniment to your hike. Backpack hikers usually head six miles out to the Dingford Creek Bridge before turning back, but you can hike as short or long a trek as you want on this trail.

Camping backpack hikes can literally be done anywhere.  There are so many great hiking spots Nationwide, not just in the Seattle area.  A frequent statement after first-time hikers returning from their experience is, “Why didn’t I hike sooner?”  The folks at Nature Trail Backpacks can help you decide on a hiking pack and answer questions you may have as a new hiker.  Be sure to check your local areas on an internet search. You’ll be amazed at how many places are right in your own area to enjoy the greatness of backpack hiking, for the day, weekend or longer.  Happy hiking!


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